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Organ donations and transplants - Statistics & Facts

Organ donation is when a person agrees to donate one of their organs to another person. The organ is then removed and transplanted into the candidate. Some organs, such as a kidney, can be donated while the donor is alive, but most donations occur after the donor has deceased. The distribution of organ transplants worldwide in 2018 showed that kidney transplants were by far the most common procedure. In the same year, the estimated number of organ transplantations worldwide exceeded 146,000, around two-thirds of which were kidney transplants. Although thousands of life-saving organ transplantations are performed every year, there remains an unmet need for organ donations around the world. Laws allowing consent for organ donation differ from country to country, and, therefore, donation rates also vary widely. There are two main methods for determining organ donation consent after death: opt-in and opt-out. The United States, Brazil, and Israel have the opt-in system, where consent is needed to proceed with the donation process. Other countries have an opt-out system, where an individual is presumed to support donation unless they have actively refused consent. Nations with opt-out systems include Spain, the United Kingdom, and Argentina.

Organ donations in the United States

In 2019, the total number of organ donors in the U.S. was around 19,260. Although most organ donations are from the deceased, there were 6,867 kidney transplants from living donors. Organ donation in the United States is governed by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA). This act was first enacted in 1968 and saw revisions in 1987 and 2006. UAGA permits adults to become organ donors and is an attempt to standardize state laws. As of 2017, UAGA has been established in some form in every U.S. state.

How many organ transplants are performed each year and what do they cost?

Despite the introduction of the UAGA, the unmet need for organ donation is a growing concern. In 2019, the total number of organ transplants in the United States was close to 40,000. However, there were almost 109,000 U.S. candidates waiting for an organ donation as of September 2020, around 92,000 of which were waiting for kidney donations. A kidney transplant in the United States costs an average of around 442,500 U.S. dollars. Kidney transplantations are one of the cheapest organ transplantations, along with pancreas and cornea transplants. The most expensive transplantation is a heart transplant, which costs an average of almost 1.7 million U.S. dollars.


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